Saturday, August 30, 2008

This Week in Promotional Culture

Getting publicity for a lowly ol’ hunk of treeware is getting increasingly difficult, what with cuts to various book sections across North America and the general decline in reading. So I have sympathy for those able to place advertorials for their novels into major newspapers. At the same time, I do wonder if that space could be used more effectively. Three recent examples:

1) The Globe has obviously inked some kind of sweetheart deal with Ondaatje, because on Saturday, August 23, the Globe Review reprinted the entire afterword from the new edition of The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. This afterword was deemed newsworthy enough to make it onto page R1. His bio reads: I am the King of Canlit and you are not. Buy my reissue now.* (Too lazy to track down article link).

2) On August 9, the Saturday Star gave Andrew Pyper an entire page to promote The Killing Circle. It should be noted that Pyper is a talented non-fiction writer, and by all accounts a superb human being, so I urge you to hate the game, not the playa. His article bio reads: Andrew Pyper's latest novel, The Killing Circle, has just been published. (link).

3) Also on August 9, intellectual super collider Stephen Marche managed to convince the Globe and Mail’s travel section to publish a piece about the fictional country he created for his most recent book. The sheer audacity of this maneuver earns my grudging admiration. Just in case you missed the central thesis of the article, his bio reads: Stephen Marche is the author of Shining at the Bottom of the Sea. The paperback version hits stores today. (link).

(Full Disclosure: I’m guilty of a similar crime, having written a “From the Author” column for Canadian Bookseller in July/August of 2001.)

* No it doesn't.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I Cry Uncle

In an otherwise thoughtful and charming article about Yonge Street, TIFF celebrity Sheila Heti suddenly decides it's time for an 86-word run-on sentence …

People say people change. People also say people never change. When people say people change, it is because a woman who feels bad for always being reticent about giving herself fully in a relationship, but gets into relationships all the same, after a conversation with her uncle realizes that she doesn't have to want what she doesn't want, and begins behaving in a way that is new - same as when she talked to him at the age of 14 and he said if she didn't want to have sex with her boyfriend she should not. When we say people don't change, it's because at 40 as at 14, she still goes to her uncle for advice. And he still gives his advice over a meal he pays for on Yonge Street.

You lost me somewhere around uncle, but I'll try harder next time, I promise.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Puke in Mouth Disease

After the first sip I barfed a little in my mouth.
-- Walrus, Imaginings, September 2008

(Now I understand the expression “I just threw up in my mouth.”)
-- Walrus, Imaginings, December 2007

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On Hating Hogtown

Toronto became a particularly intense target for my ennui. I’d lived in the city my entire life, but suddenly its culture began to feel oppressive, and its preoccupations with media and money and real estate struck me as shallow and empty. The chattering classes chattered, and my eyes glazed over. I had no interest in competitive conversations or self-conscious affectations, and little patience for the conspicuous consumption and narcissistic obsessions of our age that accosted me at every turn. I couldn’t pick up the Style section of the Globe and Mail without profound feelings of revulsion.

No doubt my disenchantment was merely a projection on my part, having less to do with Toronto’s perceived failings than with my own sense of stuckness, but I continued to feel dislocated and blank. Close friends provided solace; otherwise, I was at sea.

-- Wendy Dennis, writing in the Summer 2008 issue of The Walrus


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Paging Mr. Remnick, Mr. Peres and Mr. Nelson

The Esquire column is a fantasy made real thanks to the open-mindedness of the magazine's editor. As recently as May, he received a phone call and, as he tells it, the voice on the other end of the line said, "Hi, I'm David Granger from Esquire. I really like what you've been writing lately. Do you want to write a pop culture column for us?"
-- from a short profile on cultural poobah Stephen Marche in the August 9, 2008 Globe and Mail, by Amy Verner

I feel as though Marche getting the Esquire column involved a bit more than simply waiting for the phone to ring. My inner skeptic alarm is ringing in such a way as to suggest that something has been omitted in this version of events.

But, rather than be jealous or negative, I'm going to try the same technique. As of this moment, I'm open to phone calls from Jim Nelson (GQ), Dan Peres (Details) and David Remnick (New Yorker). If you're in desperate need of an intelligent white guy to help decode our cultural milieu, I'm but ten digits away. Unlike Marche, I only have a Master's, not a Ph.D, which means you can pay me 15 percent less.

You can even call collect, big-name glossy magazine editors. I won't mind a bit.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Keeping Up With the Davidson

His Canadian publisher, Random House Canada, hasn't announced what it has paid or what it's printing; nor has the British publisher, Canongate, which recently anointed The Gargoyle its lead fiction title for the fall. But the betting among informed observers is that Davidson's total earnings from advances – this before a single copy has even been purchased here or south of the border – is in the $2-to-$2.5-million range. 
-- from an article in the Saturday Globe (August 8, 2008) about The Gargoyle novelist Andrew Davidson’s big payday.
At the risk of bragging, I recently received $30 from a literary journal for a short story. I appreciate that the journal (which shall remain nameless) is struggling. I'm not complaining about the amount, but rather its form. Rather than a cheque I was sent two copies of the journal plus a plain white envelope with:

- a twenty dollar bill
- a five dollar bill
- two toonies
- and a loonie

Coins in the mail felt strange to me. I'd rather have done without them since $25 is only five zeros away from $2.5 million. In your face, Davidson.

(I updated this post on August 13 to reflect the correct combination of bills and coins to make $30. I originally had a ten-spot in there for no reason. How embarrassing.)